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“I just think it’s a breeze for the United States to push for a ceasefire,” said Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee, which focuses on the Middle East. “If Israel does not believe that a ceasefire is in their interests, it does not mean that we have to accept that judgment. We have enormous powers of persuasion. “
The top Democrats’ print campaign represents a re-calibration of the party’s stance toward Israel, which has become increasingly antagonistic on Capitol Hill after decades of viewing support for the Palestinian cause as a political third-line. Many lawmakers have lost patience with Netanyahu, arguing that his government has taken measures against Palestinians that make a two-state solution to the conflict less achievable.
Biden is caught between competing priorities as he faces growing outrage from his party. A US-led push for a ceasefire would be seen as a reprimand for America’s longtime allies in the region. Netanyahu said on Sunday that he intended to continue his country’s military campaign against Hamas, particularly the underground tunnels in Gaza, in retaliation for the terrorist group’s recent rocket attacks. The US has so far confessed to Netanyahu’s air strikes and has even vetoed UN Security Council resolutions calling for a ceasefire.
“I’m concerned about it,” said Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) Of the US vetoes. “I just can’t remember a gun war with children killed on both sides where the US hasn’t aggressively pushed for a ceasefire.”
The number of civilian deaths from the Israeli strikes has risen sharply. Dozens of people were killed in Gaza over the weekend, including women and children. Hamas continued to fire rockets at Israel, even though Israel’s state-of-the-art iron dome system intercepted most of them.
The Biden government has so far done what White House press secretary Jen Psaki called “calm, intense diplomacy” on Monday. This led to President Netanyahu saying on Monday that he “supported” a ceasefire phone call between the two leaders.
“He’s just taken a diplomatic approach to doing this behind the scenes,” said Bob Menendez (DN.J.), chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee. “It has obviously not produced the results that everyone wants to see, which is an end to violence, but I would dare say it will.”
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer on Monday endorsed calls for a ceasefire and reiterated a bipartisan statement by Murphy and Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) Calling for a swift de-escalation but asserting the right of Israel to oppose it Defend missile attacks.
“I want a ceasefire to be reached quickly and to mourn the loss of life,” Schumer told reporters.
Some Democrats defended Biden’s actions on Monday. Jack Reed (DR.I.), chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, said the president took the time to find out how “best to use his unique status”.
“There must be signs that a truce is possible before the president commits,” Reed said. “Most presidents I know don’t testify and then see them ignored.”
And Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), A senior member of the Committee on Foreign Relations, said that while a ceasefire was “appropriate”, Hamas was not a “traditionally reliable” actor when it came to ceasefires in the region . “It requires a buy-in, and it’s very easy for one side to implement guidelines when the other side is much more difficult. I think the president understands that. “
While the Democrats have consistently supported Israel’s right to self-defense against Hamas’ aggression, many of them have blamed the Netanyahu government for its settlement activities. These were seen as precursors to the recent outbreak of violence, including the threat of Palestinian displacement from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in east Jerusalem.
Top Democrats have labeled these actions as human rights violations and urged Biden to speak out against the Netanyahu-led airstrikes. The recent conflict also came amid an internal struggle by Israeli lawmakers to form a coalition government, leading to speculation that Netanyahu is using the recent conflict to assert his control over the country.
“This is not the time for platitudes. Children are dying and Netanyahu, desperate to hold onto power, says he is doing so with US support, ”said Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., A member of the House Armed Services Committee on MSNBC. “The President has to make it very clear: No, you are not.”
“The president has to end this,” added Khanna. “And he can end this with a phone call.”
Congressional Democrats have limited leverage over the Biden administration, as is often the case with US foreign policy. While Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) And others have called for a reassessment of annual US aid to Israel, that would be a drastic measure that has so far received little support on Capitol Hill.
Right now, there is little more Democrats can do than put public pressure on the White House. However, Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee met on Monday evening and decided to request a delay in a new arms sale to Israel, which was completed earlier this month. The Biden government further angered the Democrats in approving this sale, but it is highly unlikely that Congress can use its authority to block such arms transfers by enforcing a rejection decision in time to halt Israel’s current sale.
“The escalation of violence, the ongoing deaths of civilians in Israel and the Palestinian territories require the negotiation of a ceasefire,” said Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Who made a push over the weekend that included more than two dozen of his fellow Democrats . “Right now, children are dying in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. … Our first priority should be to stop the killing. “
Psaki defended the government’s approach on Monday, arguing that Biden had “an obligation and desire to end the violence”.
“Our calculation at this point is that the most constructive approach is to have these conversations behind the scenes and weigh our important strategic partnerships,” she said.
Psaki also declined to say whether the US considered legitimate an Israeli strike that toppled a skyscraper filled with international media including the Associated Press. The Israeli military has said that Hamas militants are housed in the building but has not provided any evidence to support this assessment.
Some Democrats have privately raised concerns that the impending arms sale will only further encourage the Israeli military campaign in Gaza, especially without more acute US pressure to agree to a ceasefire.
“It would be appalling for the Biden government to provide Netanyahu with $ 735 million in precision-guided weapons without any conditions attached as the violence escalates and attacks on civilians,” said MP Ilhan Omar (D-Minn .) an explanation. “If this goes through, it will be seen as a green light to further escalation and undermine any attempts to broker a ceasefire.”
The Republicans are now firmly behind Netanyahu. Senate minority chairman Mitch McConnell said Monday he is calling for a ceasefire to downplay Hamas’ responsibility for the violence and suggested that “Israelis have no right to defend themselves”. He called it an “obscene moral equivalence”.
“If Hamas laid down its arms tomorrow, there would be no more fighting. If Israel lay down its arms, Israel would be gone, ”McConnell said. “So let’s leave no doubt about where America stands.”